Cheltenham Jazz Festival
Cheltenham Jazz Festival April May Festival With a Pretty Wide Definition of ‘Jazz’
The Longer Read Cheltenham Jazz Festival 26th April – 1st May 2017
Ah… Jazz. Here are two views on jazz:
1. Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.
2. It’s a vibrant contemporary art form worthy of its own Festival.
And, if you’re reading this, yours is probably the latter view. In any event, the consensus on Cheltenham Jazz Festival is that every year it operates as a pretty broad church – so this is no jazz purist enclave. 2017’s offering saw Laura Mvula, Will Young, Rick Wakeman, Orchestra Baobab, Gregory Porter and Chick Corea with many other gigs and happenings basically centred on Montpellier Gardens. Blues, Afrobeat and Soul are all usually invited to the party. You’d be hard pushed not to find something of interest.
The venues are the, rather cavernous, Town Hall, the art deco Daffodil Restaurant (a good option), the Pizza Express Live Arena, a Spiegeltent and a Big Top, in Montpellier Gardens. In Imperial Gardens there are venues like the EDF Energy Arena and the Sunday Times Garden Arena. The Festival also extends out to Gloucester Cathedral, the Queen’s Hotel and Cheltenham College Chapel, plus one or two other venues. You might also score some after-hours Jamie Cullum action at the Hotel du Vin, he’s a regular artistic curator of the event and there’s a session til 3AM at the hotel, it has been known to carry on until breakfast. For 2017, the Festival has added a 11pm to 1am sesh at The Daffodil, featuring a hipsterish jazz outfit from an East London bar, called Kansas Smitty’s. Hopefully that’ll keep the neighbours up*.
It goes without saying that many will disagree with our scores for this event, but scores are a personal thing. There’s another issue though; exactly how suited is dear old Cheltenham to Jazz? For example, a friend was once asked to stop dancing at a Festival gig – which isn’t jazz as we know it. On the other hand, for the last few years, the organisers have been widening out the venues and including some free gigs around town. So, all in all, the Jazz Festival is a welcome addition to the Cheltenham scene and a positive livening force on the average profile of visitors to the town. Even if there was once a punch up at a Thrill Collins gig.
Incidentally, we’d like to offer you more pictures – we’ve been blanked by those cool cats at the Jazz Festival office. So here’s some real jazz cats.
*Every year the hunt is on to find some outraged locals to complain about the noise, for the local rag. This year complaints about “life being a living hell” have surfaced, based on a db level in the mid to upper 60s – which is co-incidentally the average age of complainers.